Select Weir Surname Genealogy

Weir is a Scottish name, but of Norman origins.  The place-name Vere in Normandy, from the Norse word ver or "dam," gave rise to the powerful de Vere family who came to England and held the title of Earl of Oxford from 1141 to 1703.  A branch of these de Veres were to be found in Scotland from 1165.  They became Weirs in Scotland around the year 1500.

Select Weir Resources on The Internet

Select Weir Ancestry

Scotland. The Weir family was said to have begun in Scotland in 1165 when Ralph (or Radulphus) de Vere fled to Scotland after a dispute with his Anglo-Norman father, the Earl of Oxford.  In return for his new allegiance to King William I, the Lion of Scotland, Ralph was granted lands in Lanarkshire.

The Weirs of Blackwood in Lanarkshire claim descent from him.  Richard de Vere was proprietor of the barony of Blackwood around the year 1296 and is often called the ancestor of all Weirs in Scotland.  However, it was not until the time of Thomas Weir, around 1500, that the de Vere name became Weir in Scotland.

The 16th century saw many skirmishes between the Weirs and their neighbors:
  • the Weirs seem to have had a long-running feud with the Lockharts who were accused of many murders during this time but were never punished because of their rank.   
  • they feuded also with their cousins the Weirs of Stonebyres who in retaliation changed their name back to Vere in the 18th century.  James Vere of Stonebyres frittered the family fortune away at that time.  From the Stonebyres line came Thomas Weir who was burnt at the stake with his sister for reputed sorcery in 1670.
The area around Lanark remained the focal point for Weirs in Scotland.  By 1881, 70% of all Weirs in Scotland were still based in Lanarkshire.  The town of Cathcart near Glasgow was where the global Weir Group started its life in 1871.

  Many Weirs began to migrate to Ulster when persecution started at home against the Covenanters.   The
Rev. John Weir, the Presbyterian minster at Dolserf (near Lanark and Lesmahagow) was sent to Antrim "to administer the Covenant to all of the officers and soldiers and Protestants in Ireland." However, he was imprisoned and died in Mingarie castle in 1643.

Other Weirs followed the path to Ulster.  In 1664 John Weir had married Jane Adams and moved to Straid in Antrim.  These Weirs became the village corn millers.  By the 1890's the family business had expanded to include a farm, a forge, and a carpenter's shop.  Many Weirs settled around Ballymena.  Other Weirs were to be found in Desertcreat parish, Tyrone.

America.  Scots Irish Weirs transplanted themselves to America:

  • some Covenanters settled in the Cathcart community in Chester county, Pennsylvania (the graveyard shows George Weir who died there, aged 92, in 1806)
  • other Weirs headed for Bucks county in Pennsylvania or to the Borden land grant in Virginia's Shenandoah valley.
  • while Robert Weir, who arrived in 1718, was one of the first settlers of Londonderry, New Hampshire.
Another Robert Weir, born in Paisley, had come to America around 1790 and settled in New Rochelle near New York. His son Robert became well-known as an educator and painter, being one of the leaders of the Hudson river school of painting.  Robert and his wife had sixteen children, many of whom were painters in their own right.  The youngest, Julian Weir, was the best-known. 

Canada.  Many Weirs from Scotland made their way to Canada in the 19th century.  Two William Weirs came to Montreal in mid-century and had very different outcomes:
  • the first William Weir arrived in 1842, starting out as a book-keeper and rose to become an influential businessman and banker in Montreal.  However, in 1899 he got caught up in a bank collapse and went to jail.  His son committed suicide and he died six years later, a discredited man.
  • the second William Weir came in 1852 and he spent his time as a Surveyor of Customs in the port of Montreal.  He had two more famous sons - William who became a Quebec Cabinet Minister and Robert who wrote the lyrics of O Canada, the Canadian national anthem. 
Robert de Vere Weir, the so-called Laird, headed west to Vancouver Island in 1852.

New Zealand.  Daniel Weir came out from Edinburgh with his family on the Blundell in 1848.   He settled to farm in Otago, South Island.  He had six sons by his first wife Catherine who all became successful farmers; and, after she died, six sons by his second wife Alison. 

Select Weir Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Weir Names

Ralph de Vere
, who arrived in Scotland in 1165, is considered to be the forebear of the Blackwood Weirs of Lanarkshire.
Robert Walter Weir was one of the leaders of the Hudson river school of painting in America in the mid-19th century.
George and James Weir founded the engineering company Weir in Cathcart near Glasgow in 1871.  This has now become the global Weir Group.
Peter Weir
is an accomplished Australian film director who has had numerous hits in America.

Select Weirs Today
  • 16,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lanarkshire)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page